Hydration: How much hydration/nutrition do I need during the off/early base phase?
This time of year, I see many athletes consuming electrolytes, energy bars, gels prior to a workout. The question is - are they really necessary for every workout? I say "NO". Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but these are my thoughts/professional opinions:
During the off/early season base training phase, workouts are generally done at a lower intensity or they are lasting 60 minutes or less. While in this period of training, part of the goal is to teach our bodies how to use fats as fuels as discussed in a previous post. If we are able to do this, we will be much more efficient burning fats as our fuel source during the race season as well.
Why do we want to burn fats as fuels? Well, most of us already know that we have enough fat on our body, so teaching our body to burn the excess is just a good thing. Secondly, when we teach our body how to utilize fats as fuels, we rely less on other products that don't last as long and aren't necessarily readily available. Our bodies become engines that could!
There are always exceptions, so let's talk about when to fuel during this base/fat burning time. The main one being going into a workout and not having eaten anything for 5-6 hours prior to the workout (or if you have a health condition the necessitates caloric consumption prior). Another reason for consuming something besides water prior to a workout would be if you are an extremely heavy sweater. If you are that person that sweats heavily during activity, it is possible that you will need to replenish with electrolytes at this time of the year to prevent cramping during the workout.
Again, there are always exceptions to the rules, but if you are the person that "always" eats something right before a workout, try going without fuel for your shorter, less intense workouts to begin with and gradually work into longer workouts without fuel.
Ultimately, be smart about your body and don't do anything that will jeopardize your health, but don't fall into the trap of assuming you need calories and hydration all the time.